Southern Festival of the Book

     I was invited to speak at the Southern Festival of the Book in Nashville, Tennessee this past weekend - what a treat!
     When I lived in Chattanooga, I occasionally had to travel to Nashville for business and always enjoyed the town. It's architecture is early 20th century - completely charming. The town is clean and kept up with flowers everywhere and so much is right downtown in walking distance, Hubbie and I were really looking forward to the trip. (Here he is being goofy...)
     The drive up was stunningly beautiful of course, and the venue for the book festival was literally right across the street from our hotel. So, we parked the car and walked everywhere - nice. Here's the venue before the crowds arrived - pretty.

     My first gig was Saturday morning on the children's stage. It was still nice and cool with a huge fountain right next door. Fabulous author/illustrator/designer Linda Ragsdale worked her magic to create the most perfect children's stage I've ever seen.
     I read Paco and the Giant Chile Plant and everybody had fun saying "¡Aye Caramba!" Of course, I quizzed the kids on the Spanish they learned during the reading and gave away sombreros to those who answered correctly. Here I am with the sombrero winners.

And here I am signing art, books, and sombreros...!?? (never done that before!)

     The SCBWI Booth looked great, and I stopped by to say "hi" to my friends in the Mid-South region, Tracy, Candie, and Patricia.
     I then participated on a panel of authors and illustrators with various ways into the business. Friend and author of the ParentSmart/KidHappy series (I illustrated) was there with me, which was lots of fun. Stacey is so cool. Several audience members asked me questions after the session which I enjoyed.

     During our book signing, I ended up sitting next to an adult author with an enormous signing line (intimidating), but being children's book people, we had no idea who he was so looked him up in the program guide. Well, geese. It was Richard Price, creator of The Wire, for which he won the 2007 Edgar Award. I heard him a while back in a great interview with Teri Gross. He seemed like a nice guy - uber successful, and exactly what you expect a wildly creative writer to look like.

     Afterwards I enjoyed Sherman Alexie's talk. Diary of a Part-Time Indian is truly one of my favorite reads of the year.
     I caught up with Hubbie who was watching our Georgia Bulldogs kick Tennessee's ... anyhow.
     I left at halftime to attend a talk on writing mysteries by Alan Gratz and Tracy Barrett. Alan's mysteries are modern-day adaptations (sort of) of Shakespearean plays, and Tracy's books are play-offs of Sherlock Holmes. They're both so talented, is was fun to hear their obvious confidence with a subject matter they love. It was also good to see Alan and his wife Wendi since they've now moved to the mountains of North Carolina.
     I was pretty wiped out by the end because I'd actually been fighting a cold most of the weekend, so Hubbie and I decided to skip the author party and headed to a local, famous Italian restaurant - Dimo's. It was wonderful!
     Sunday we had a quick breakfast in a local diner, and hit the road. We took a quick detour in Chattanooga to see my old house (hasn't changed much) and have lunch in my old stomping grounds. I had to call my girlfriend who I used to hang with back them and tell her where I was. She asked if all the same old people were hanging around. "Of course," I said, "and none of them have aged. (Not!)" It's so funny - when I see somebody from my past, I always want to say, "You aged too!? I thought I was the only one!"
     Anyhow - it was a great weekend. Thanks to Hester Bass for putting me on the SFB radar, Emily Masters for organizing the event and Linda for a wonderful children's venue. I'd love to visit again someday!

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